—Perhaps the question is how important is it to be published?
—In the long run, it’s not that important, but it does wonders for the poet’s ego, and it can determine whether or not they continue to pursue this chimera. My early success in getting work published in both Rolling Stone and The Paris Review reinforced my belief in myself. I knew all along that Charlie Perry, the copy editor at Rolling Stone, was using my short poems as filler, and I was alright with that. It was not, after all, a poetry magazine. On the other hand, it was only many years later I learned that Tom Clark, the poetry editor at The Paris Review at the time, accepted my poems using the “dart board” method of choosing work. But, by then, it was too late. I had already invested too much in the exalted opinion of myself to go back. He should shoulder some of the blame for my monstrous tenacity in the face of repeated failure.
—Do you feel that you have made enemies, partly because of your success, or even lack of it, among poets?
—Rather than share my paranoid fantasies, which I assure you can be lengthy, let me just say that most of the enemies I’ve made among poets, I have done so unintentionally. Probably because I naively believe that all poets are equal, and in so believing, I’ve transgressed against the self-serving elitism that is so prevalent. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that there is exclusivity among poets. If someone tells me that they are a poet, I’m willing to take that at face value. If their work suffers in comparison with some of the more talented contemporary writers, they are no less poets. Perhaps their skills are not as developed as a poet who’s had the benefit of a university education and the connections that go along with it. For whatever reason, in spirit, it does not make them less of a poet. To claim to be a poet is to recognize the place of language in your life. And that’s relatively simple and allowable. The hard part is dedicating your life to the pursuance of being a poet and not looking back.
—What does that have to do with making enemies?
—Nothing, probably, except that by not being overly judgmental I have violated the simplistic fundamental of ‘if you’re not with us, you’re against us.’ Someone is bound to take exception and put a political spin on it.
—Why don’t you write political poems?
—I don’t have the inclination, and besides I don’t want to say something that I might have to take back. I have to admit to being naive and foolish, but when it comes to things political, I would like to play my cards close to my vest. First of all, it is foolish to trust government. One should live in constant mistrust of its intentions. It is unpredictable and unwieldy, and unaware of how its actions can, for the sake of paperwork, affect the lives of its citizens. Are we cognizant of the bugs we crush underfoot when we are out strolling in the splendor of our existence in the natural world? No, of course not. Self-government remains our only alternative, constant vigilance in the service of a spiritual integrity. Then we can pass easily through the bars of light like a shadow against dark green foliage, disappear like a vapor into a harmony like that of the cosmos of which we know so little, about which we presume so much, this harmony of mystery.
—Does the thought of government always make you so metaphysical?
—You caught me on a good day.
Life imitates TV numbs me with inescapable fear distracted by commercial I can still feel the actual shock someone out of control snuffs a segment of the female population what’s crazy he ain’t the first o reptilian terror! (I should never watch the evening news) everyone’s worst possible fear come true film at eleven by then it’s too late potential for flip-out increases in direct proportion to the quickening pace of life in the fast lane the formula for brutality proven by random highway death otherwise known as American Roulette it was only a matter of time victimized by the curse of ingenuity too good to be true sink to the lowest common denominator bottom line of senseless death no longer gods to blame demons find vent drawn by unremitting carnage that gores day and night with such regularity you can count on it bagged in plastic bodies carried off
10/4/89 that bebop thing with a late century spin when you talk in those terms you give yourself history I’d just as soon look at my watch what shows am I missing I’m entertaining enough as it is now it can be told art imitates entertainment if it were only a little more consistent there might be some money in it “I’m going to Disneyland!” sez Yamaguchi the skater I’m going to dithyramb! sez I the poet doing my best to imitate Newton’s Long John well aware that his paronym has made a long and lasting impression on the native psyche and must forever be co-referents in cultural history once again through the looking glass (lens) what’s under the rock of consciousness stirs examined17 and then there’s the saxophone are we blessed or what cartoon duck head retake and mistake Virgo: Archeology of a very personal nature continues to occupy much of your inner life. Once you’ve peeled away the layers of past experience and learned to differentiate between the expectations of others and your own needs, you’ll be ready for the major role of your life: The Real You. It’s pick and shovel work. 10/8/93 windowpane portrait when you look out and see your reflection obsession decanted to a mere fizzle
VICTORIA IN THE MORNING
The noisome heat of Indian summer reverberated through the shorter days like the crash of cheap brass cymbals. I was hoofing it to town on my way to the post office, having stepped out of the cool of a late morning house without realizing how stifling the day had become until I was about half way there. That’s when I ran into Steve Lavoie. He had Victoria Rathbun in tow. They had just hitchhiked up from the city, spur of the moment. It had only taken them two rides. I wondered that it had taken that many. Victoria was radiant as usual: copper hair piled in ringlets on top of her head, pale skin so transparent it glowed, eyes flecked green, and of course, a skimpy tank-top and very very short skirt that would have caused most heads to turn in admiration and outright desire. I added a couple of six-packs to the items I was supposed to bring back from the store, and we eventually made our way back to my place. Pheromones travel well on hot days. Soon Jeff showed up with a quart of economy brew. He called Andrei who called Dick. Steve called Michael-Sean. Before long there was a gang of poets crowding my living room. Everyone was well aware of Victoria’s considerable literary talents and erudition, the perfect combination of beauty and brains. To rescue the boys from a permanent case of drooling slack jaw, I suggested we write some poems together. I set my Olympia typewriter on the mantle of the old gas fireplace in the living room and let the poets do their thing. Much of what was said was probably wittier than what went on the page. The puns and fun lasted into early evening. About that time the beer ran out. We then headed over to the Knotty Room to play some pool and drink more beer. It was still unseasonably hot around midnight when Steve and Victoria and I staggered back to the house. I shook out the old sleeping bags and we all took turns puffing into the air mattress. One of them had the couch, the other one had the floor, and by then I didn’t care who got what. Early the next morning, after I had made coffee, I found Victoria sitting in the cool of the yard, basking in the first rays of light coming over the ridge and moving across her bare thigh like a hand, my hand. There’s nothing like the scent of stale perfume in the morning, I thought to myself. It smells like. . .like Victoria.
Useless information the telltale sign of entropy mounts the scale of complexity on the way the less specific more likely to ride the curve to diversity I pick the oddest moments to think of these things eyes closed fingers crossed elbows to knees knuckles to chin constant review no matter what reflects the latest success that’s the question success who needs it a flock of hands fly up that’s what I think too for the birds “birds eat shit” according to William Carlos Williams (I couldn’t have it on better authority) and that concludes our lecture on the evolution of the species for today thank you
10/10/92 I am a tree I grow thicker with age 10/11/91 an eye hooked directly to the imagination a tiny square photo depicting a native woman of Southeast Asia right outside my window one morning only the contrast and contour of a dead leaf caught on a thread of gossamer once a breeze passes through to dispel the enchantment of shadow and light spins suspended toward another configuration head gear (give a man enough space and he’ll explode) breakfast returned as marriage and evening moans in the attitude of standing trees a toast with wine to success not French but wine all the same 10/11/93 frigid orange light drapes the forested hills creamy clouds against an ever darkening blue sickle moon smiles down an answering thought recalls it all buried in the bushes last Wednesday’s newspaper green hillsides flecked with gold leaves high clouds band the heavens clatter of a leaf rake latch in the shadow of a glass bison 10/12/86 in near morning’s anemic light bamboo stalks bend before a sudden gust porch light on day and night newspapers mail piles up gone crazy I escape the terrifying sanity of calm days 10/14/89 Don’t let your sense of propriety engineer you into extinction. POO: Poets of Outer Orbit. . .their motto: “Poetry is shit!” still life: every space has a face
Well I think I may have it somewhat together here. When I went dredging through the archives, I came across a bunch of stuff I thought might be of “interest” to you and the readers of Scarlet. The dream/gossip idea immediately made me think of that old dreamer and etherophile, Max Jacob, and so I enclose a couple of translations of his strange stuff —I haven’t seen these particular prose poems of his published in translation in any mags or collections of his work, but I’m sure that Michael Brownstein or Ron Padgett (or both) have translated every poem and loose fragment Max Jacob ever penned. Also enclosed a couple of my pale imitations of the master dreamer which kinda fall into the dream/gossip category. The Bolinas piece I’ve had around for a while. I never thought I’d ever get anybody to seriously consider it (since I don’t consider it serious), but after Collum’s “haibun” in the last issue, I don’t feel so apprehensive about sending it to you. I had an idea for a series of “Pat-journeys-off-to-give-a-reading” travel journals (a la Basho) which starts with the one I wrote about going to New York City to read at the Poetry Project in ‘78. But since I’ve virtually stopped giving readings (or travelling any great distance to do so) that idea has about stopped in its tracks. The contents (light hearted to say the least) also fits your “gossip” criteria. I do fail to mention a delicious chicken dinner that Joanne served up, and how Magda, Lew Welch’s ex and Huey Lewis’ mom, showed up just in time for the meal and promptly bombed us all out with a chunk of hash the size of a Milk Way. I still don’t remember how we all managed to make it down to the library for the reading. But from all accounts (polite or otherwise) it went well once I managed to untangle my synapses
As I take the turns that make up the curves of my existence I invariably run into a few walls (nose throbs from bump) it’s a regular house of mirrors the way I can’t make up my mind the cruel hoax begins when I take the cans to the curb the sky’s color red though through the night I thrashed in the sheets of possibility rearranging the furniture in the hazy living room of dreams they come back to me with my coffee cardboard (could be styrofoam) cutouts of people I don’t even know situations whose probability is real enough I get back in bed but dream no more gaze out the window into walnut’s intricate pattern of shadowy leaves where sparks of brightening morning leak through and distinguishing color can appear
THE ARCHIMEDEAN SOLUTION
(Or, Hit the Road, Jack)
One morning after another party, there came a knock on my door. Andrei, Steve, and Lana stood there, shoulder to shoulder (in Andrei’s case, shoulder to ribcage), in a rather bedraggled condition. They had stayed up all night, talking and drinking. The problem was that at one point they had gone for a drive and ended up on some off-the-beaten-track dirt road. Steve’s car was stuck in a ditch. They had come to me to help them push. I dutifully slipped into my boots while reciting a list of some of my more colorful expletives, pulled my hair back into a working ponytail, and accompanied them, on foot, to the scene of the mishap. Sure enough, Steve’s Nash Rambler was sitting slightly askew to the overgrown logging road, the right rear wheel lodged in a narrow but deep ditch. After a few vain attempts at trying to muscle the car out of the rut, we stood around looking red in the face and breathing heavily. Except for Lana, of course, she just looked gorgeous. Then it came to me: the Archimedean solution! I had Steve get the jack out of the trunk and attach it at the rear bumper close to the edge of the ditch. We took turns on the tire iron, ratcheting the rear of the Rambler up until the entire back end wobbled precariously at the top of the jack and the wheel had cleared the confines of the ditch. At this point, I had everyone stand on the bank on the outside of the ditch and, on the signal, we all pushed the car toward the road. This caused the Rambler to fall off its perch, flinging the jack dangerously into the air. Our united effort, however, was just enough to move the car so that when the wheels hit the ground, the right rear tire was out of the ditch, but just by inches. Steve started the car up and got it back onto the road. Pleased with myself, I turned to Andrei. “Where were you guys going, anyway?” He shrugged. “Don’t ask me, man, I don’t drive.”
“Scoop the mellow pumpkin” those days over for now plastic teeth eyebrow pencil create the difference the unconscious unleashed if you’re lucky full moon and the adventure of night I experience in the excitement of my kids though at the back of my mind some nut’s got the candy poisoned or razors pins stuck in fruit cookies hard to heed the caution going full bore in the dark just waiting for something horrible to happen survived time change days brisk bright amber atmosphere turning leaves enforce morning mist chill sops the fallen to rot low sun glare floods autumn streets taste test time enormous dildo-like flowertop Chinese coffee (black with a dollop of O) I’m only dreaming of course caught between events gladiator of the seasons I need someone
The ants of rain warn of the approach of rain. The first of rain is a blessing of rain. That is the disguise of rain. The damp of rain, the chill of rain sends shivers of rain up the spine of rain. Soon there is the too-much-of-a-good-thing of rain. The wind of rain whips through the trees of rain carrying the debris of rain tumbling along the asphalt of rain and washing across the windows of rain which run with myriad rivulets of rain. The silence of rain reveals the cunning of rain to the exile of rain.
10/16/87 across the surface of sleep a flat stone skips awaken to ripple of dreams when we become pure information then we’ll travel to the stars 10/17/89 earthquake! 10/21/94 432 (9), the number of the Goddess/Time some words have to be drained of their meaning so that they may join others to really mean something I find myself constantly seeking the effect of synthesis, a restless, haphazard quest 10/25/87 Keith Abbott and Anselm Hollo dropped by right around the time the leaves whose bright contrast in various stages of atrophy always astound with their mellowing auras. Keith claimed that the yellow and purple vineyard rows were talking to him. Anselm insisted that he keep his eyes on the road, remembering, no doubt, his own erratic meanderings behind the wheel. Anselm was much taller than I remembered him. I don’t know why I had pictured him as a gnome. Perhaps it’s the gnome-like glee he displays when the repartee reaches a certain frenzy. Ah, the inevitable spinouts of the mind! The thought police are asking to see your license. “Sir, are you a citizen of this country?” “I’m a fucking Viking!” “Can I see your green card, please?” They stayed the afternoon and too soon it was dark and they had to head back. I can’t remember a thing we talked about. 10/28/90 The rejection slip read: “Your poems are both good and original. Unfortunately, the parts that were good weren’t original, and the parts that were original weren’t good.”18
 Each formal unit in the poem, the phoneme, the word, the grammatical bonds or elisions, the metrical arrangement, the stylistic conventions which attach it to other poems in the historical set or family, is charged with a semantic potential of innovation and inexhaustibility. The manifold of possible meanings is the exponential product of all possible sense or non-sense words as these are construed, imaged, tested, indwelt through the interaction of two liberties: that of the text, in movement across time, and that of the receiver.
 Nothing necessitates the generation of the fictive. In the immense majority of men and women, early impulses toward the making of art have withered away altogether. The production of executive forms by the poet is a supremely free act. It is liberality in essence and a wholly unpredictable choice not not to be. Only in the aesthetic is there the absolute freedom not to have come into being. Writing the poem is the illusion; reality is the poem to be written. Once written, poems become relics, ossified remnants of vague moments of consciousness. Poems simply anticipated their own misreading.
“. . .the leaves o’er Orpheus’ head are isosceles triangles —d’you think he notices—boom box blaring bass thud, grooving. Across the street a black pine holds up a crown of confused branches like a wild dark green spiky hairdo, the trunk rising sinuously and even appears to have a waist. Above where the waist would be, two limbs have been removed leaving the pale circular scars of perfect placement and proportions resembling nothing less than breasts, the early darker growth rings at the center of each cut like the caramel aureoles of a beautiful maid. During the transition from one song to the next on the tape, there is a resounding silence broken all too soon by the whine of an automobile engine gathering speed and the thunderous cacophony of the next cut. Only the sound of the Uzi’s wielded by the carload of Pachuca Locas, a gang of wild homegirls who effectively chop poor O to pieces as precisely as if they had used a food processor on a pound of mushrooms is louder. . . “